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Peripheral nerve stimulation (PNS), is a commonly used approach to treat chronic pain. It is a technique that places a small, wire-like electrode next to one of the peripheral nerves. (Peripheral nerves are nerves that are located beyond the brain or spinal cord). The electrode delivers rapid electrical pulses that are felt like mild tingles (paresthesias).

PNS begins with a trial test. During the trial, the electrode is connected to an external device. If the trial is successful, a small generator is implanted into the patient’s body. Similar to heart pacemakers, electricity is delivered from the generator to the nerve or nerves using one or several electrodes. The patient is able to con-trol stimulation by turning the device on and off and adjusting stimulation parameters as needed.

The patient experiences this as a pleasant tingling sensation. By stimulating the non-painful sensory pathway, the electrical current tricks the brain into turning off the painful signals, which brings pain relief. Most pa-tients are then able to reduce or discontinue their pain medications.

Most peripheral nerve stimulation procedures are performed as an outpatient basis with a local anesthetic. Significant postoperative pain and complications are rare, but can occur.

The following conditions may be treated with peripheral nerve stimulation:

  • Complex regional pain syndrome
  • Diabetic peripheral neuropathy


  • Neuralgia
  • Intercostal neuralgia
  • Lateral femoral cutaneous neuropathy (meralgia paresthetica)
  • Low back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Occipital neuralgia
  • Pain following hernia surgery
  • Painful nerve injuries
  • Painful peripheral neuropathies
  • Peripheral vascular disease neuropathy
  • Postamputation (stump) pain
  • Postherpetic neuralgi
  • Postthoracotomy syndrome
  • Trigeminal neuralgia
  • Trigeminal neuropathic pain